Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Looking for a throne or a hovercraft in all the wrong places

Block that metaphor, as they used to say in The New Yorker:
The parts all snap together neatly and satisfyingly, just like Ikea furniture, but the diagrams on the box seemed to promise more, and you’re left with a tinge of regret that it’s a wardrobe and not, say, a throne or a hovercraft.
From Marcel Theroux’s review in The New York Times Book Review of Douglas Coupland’s new novel, “The Gum Thief.”


Dr Diablo said...

An even more dismaying experience is to assemble a hovercraft only to wish it was a mulching mower.

Madison Guy said...

Ease off on the throttle until you're only hovering about 1/2" above the ground. At that point your hovercraft should both mow and mulch quite nicely.

Dr Diablo, Shutterbug said...

MadGuy, I apologize in advance for an off-the-point contribution, but we appear to have open lines here.

I just smashed my trusty Olympus camera to pieces. After years of yeomanly service, it had begun to falter. It blew a photo op this morning, little knowing, poor thing, that it was missing the last train to Clarksville.

I was going to buy a replacement non-digital camera, but when the Sunday supplement ads only feature digital cameras, I feel like buying a new film camera is a little like buying a typewriter; they'll dust one off for you if you superstitiously insist upon living in the past. Maybe I need to go digital.

I am a digital innocent. I know just enough about my computer to post here. I can't operate an ipod. I don't even know what a Blackberry is or does. I don't want to study manuals and I take no delight in learning about the many features of some digital gizmo.

So, my question is this: What's a decent, inexpensive, all-purpose digital camera that I can purchase this afternoon and master in an hour or so, perhaps then venturing out to capture some Condos After Dark? Maybe you could suggest a few in different price ranges.

Madison Guy said...

Shutterbug, I sympathize -- it's a terrible thing to lose a treasured camera that has served you well. What's the point of changing? A few years ago I would have recommended replacing it on eBay, the way my daughter did for my birthday after I left my beloved Olympus XA in a rental car in San Francisco. But the way things are going, you'd soon have to take the film to a pro lab for processing. Who needs that? Time to go digital.

The good news is that there's scarcely a digital camera made that won't take great pix out of the box on full auto without reading the manual at all. Don't want to even learn how to download pictures? Fine -- take it to the kiosk at Walgreens or wherever and someone will show you how to put your memory card in the reader and you can pick up your pictures in an hour.

What you get depends more on what you want to do, price point, and most of all, look and feel. It's silly to spend much more than $200 until you get enough experience with digital to see if you need more -- i.e., is there stuff you want to do, you can't? You'll know if you need more. A lot of people never do.

A great starting point is what, in our household, the lovely T found to replace her dead camera at half the price. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7. They had a great deal at American for $179. If Panasonic sounds like an odd choice of camera, just remember that the Lumix is a product of their partnership with Leica. It does things that, with all my years as a photographer, made me green with envy. But you don't need to master any of its special modes and settings if you don't want to -- just turn it on, put it on the full auto setting and start shooting.

Good luck. It's a big subject, and if you want to discuss, give me a call.